I stood at the gate to the palatial looking house wondering how I ever considered this place home. As I enter the front door it feels like entering one of the great museums filled with all sorts of treasures yet cold and empty at the same time, which fits my mood perfectly.
I turn to shut the door behind me and I hear her voice. “Alex?” I turn to see my mother standing in the foyer. Her appearance shocks me. I’ve been away for only four years but she looks as if she’s aged ten. What the hell happened to her?
“Oh God, it really is you!” She didn’t rush to hug me. Instead, she crumpled to her knees.
I drop my duffle. “Mom!” I lift her up in my arms. She’s so thin it feels like I’m lifting a small child. I carry her to the next room and sit her on the sofa. She grabs a hold of my wrist when I make a move to step back. She is deceptively strong for a woman so frail.
“Please don’t go!”
“I’m just going to get you something to drink. I’ll be right back.” She reluctantly lets me go and I return with a glass of water.
“Thank you!” She takes it from me and I take a seat across from her. I can’t get over her transformation. She always looked so young and vibrant. People used to joke about her being one of my father’s children, now her hair is grey her face is creased with worry lines so deep that even if she were to relax I doubt they’d go away. The dark circles under her eyes make them look hallow and she has become so thin her clothes hang on her like a drapery upon a rod.
“What happened to you?” The words came out before I had the chance to think them through, my system, too shaken by seeing my mother look like a walking corpse.
She refuses to look at me. She plays with the cup of water in her hand, removing the sweat on the side of the glass with her thumb. “It has been a long time, Alex. You’ve changed quite a bit too since I had last seen you.”
I imagine I had. I was a tall, thin, awkward youth but now I’m all grown up with a body of a man, built from all my training and dancing over the years. Back then I would have never had been able to lift her so easily.
“I grew up.” I gave as my excuse.
She still refuses to look at me. I see her worrying her bottom lip. Trying, I’m guessing, to keep from crying. Crying isn’t allowed in this household. Never was and I see her struggle against her training. All those years of bottled up emotions have taken its toll on her. Never was she allowed to show any outward display of emotions like anger or sadness. Never did she raise her voice or cry. Always was she the personification of decorum. It frustrated the hell out me.
“Jesus!” I yell, standing up, I start to pace. Just being in this house made my skin crawl. I half wondered if it wasn’t too late to get a hotel.
“Alexander James,” my mother admonished, “you know better than to take the Lord’s name in vain.”
I wanted to laugh. Of course, this is what would light the fire under her, bring some life back into that skeletal form of hers, forcing her to make eye contact with me.
“Sit down,” she demands.
Autopilot kicks in to comply, guided by the motherly tone of voice until reason took over.
“No, mother. I won’t sit down. I will YELL if I want to,” I say raising my voice to say the word with meaning. “His tyranny is OVER. You want to cry for god sake cry. Cry until you can’t weep another tear anything is better than living this life void of any emotion. The bastard is dead, he can’t hurt you anymore.”
My mother shot up like a spring from the sofa, anger blazed in her eyes, her hand flew on its own and she struck my face with her open palm.
“He is your Father! And you will speak of him with respect or you are not to speak of him at all!”
My face stung from where she struck me. My mother had never hit me, not once in my entire life. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh or cry at her outburst. I rub my cheek and make my decision. “Then not at all, it is then. I will help you with the arrangements but when this is over, I’m done, I will have paid my respects, none of which are deserved and I walk out that door, never to return. Am I clear.”
My mother wraps her arms around her body in a protective hug. She looks away from me, but says, “It’s funny how you despise him so, yet you sounded so much like him just then.”
I felt my anger rise. I wanted to reach over to her and shake her demanding that she take that back, but as I made the deal not to talk about my father, I walked away, picked up my duffle, and head up the stairs to my old room, instead.
I hated this place. There isn’t a hallway, a room, a corner, and an inch of this place that doesn’t echo with misery. I open the door to my room and all of my things are gone. Of course, they were. I was gone so what would be the point of keeping any memory of me in this place. It was like stepping into a freshly made hotel room, nice to look at but not a damn thing personal or homey about it. It suited me just fine. I sit on the bed and put my duffle beside me. Unzipping it I pull out the stuffed kitten. I look at my phone. There are no messages, no calls. If she read the letter at all Cat had obviously made the decision to leave things as they are. I am no longer a part of her life.
I lie upon the bed too exhausted to keep going. I press the button and listen to Peanut’s heartbeat. I feel the hot trace of tears that escape my eyes. I won’t get to see that child born. I won’t get to see them grow up. I’ve been kicked out of that family just like I was this one. I have no place to belong to. Thankfully I didn’t have long to ponder this revelation before sleep overtook me.
I am back here again. My brain recognizes that it’s just a dream but my body reacts to the environment like it’s real. It was real, once. I don’t want to walk down that alley. I know what awaits me there. I don’t want to see that scene again. To see my brother beaten and broken but my legs carry me to him regardless of what I don't want.